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Big Rapids, Mich. - A strong second half showing sparked the Ferris State University men's basketball team to a 91-69 victory over longtime West Michigan foe Calvin in the Bulldogs' 2010-11 season opener on Saturday (Nov. 13) evening at FSU's Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs led throughout the contest after scoring the first four points of the night, but held only a slim 47-42 lead at halftime before outscoring the Knights 44-27 in the final frame.
The contest marked the season opener for the Bulldogs, but was played as an exhibition game for Calvin due to varying NCAA rules regarding the official starting date between Divisions II and III.
The victory for ninth-year head coach Bill Sall came against his alma mater as he was both a two-time NCAA Division III All-American at Calvin and a former assistant coach with the Knights under Ed Douma, who presently serves on Sall's staff as a volunteer assistant with the Bulldogs.
"You've got to compliment Calvin," Sall said. "They outworked us and outhustled us in the first half. They also caused us some trouble defensively.
"We played much better and rebounded better in the second half. Finally, we got on a run and overall, for 12-14 minutes, we played with good hustle and changed the face of the game," he added.
Senior guard Darien Gay led FSU with a team-high 19 points on seven-of-13 shooting from the floor. He added five steals and four assists in pacing the Bulldogs.
Gay was joined in double digits by senior forward and 2010-11 Division II Preseason National Player of the Year Justin Keenan, who added nine rebounds in 26 minutes. A third senior, forward Lou Williams, contributed 13 points and six boards off the bench while sophomore transfer Kenny Brown chipped in with 12 points in his first official contest at FSU.
The Bulldogs overcame a sluggish first half start following a narrow overtime setback to NCAA Division I Indiana in exhibition play on Monday (Nov. 8) night at IU's Assmebly Hall. FSU shot a blistering 64% in the second half, however, against Calvin and finished at 56.1% (32-57) shooting for the night.
Ferris' defensive pressure forced 18 Calvin turnovers and limited the Knights to only 40% (26-65) shooting. Calvin managed to make 11-of-25 (44%) three-pointers, but was only six-of-10 (60%) at the free throw stripe.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were six-of-15 (40%) beyond the arc and 21-of-33 (63.6%) at the charity line with Keenan going eight-for-12.
Calvin trimmed Ferris State's five-point halftime advantage down to only three with 17 minutes to play in the game, but FSU went on a 22-4 run over the next nine minutes to put the game out of reach.
Ferris State owned a 39-34 rebounding edge on the evening and outscored the Knights 38-27 in the paint behind the play of Keenan. The Bulldogs also totaled 25 fast break points compared to only seven for Calvin and registered 31 points off of Calvin's miscues.
FSU was able to distribute the ball well in the opener with 19 assists on 32 made baskets. Both Gay and junior guard Dontae Molden had a team-high four assists while Brown added three. The Bulldog backcourt helped create 11 steals as both Molden and senior guard Matt DeHart added two thefts in addition to Gay's five steals.
Ferris turned the ball over only 12 times, including only three in the initial half. Additionally, the Bulldogs benefited from the play of their bench, which outscored Calvin's by a 46-17 count.
The Knights were led by Bryan Powell's game-high 22 points. Jordan Brink added 11 points in the losing effort for Calvin, which officially opens its season on Tuesday (Nov. 16) evening at Davenport.
The Bulldogs continue a season-opening three game homestand with a key regional matchup against St. Joseph's (Ind.) on Monday (Nov. 15) night with tipoff set for 7:30 p.m. (ET) inside Wink Arena.
Bulldog Bites: Sall continued his recent success in the Ferris-Calvin series as he won for the 11th time combined in the 14 regular-season meetings he's been part of between the Bulldogs and the Knights, including a 4-1 mark as FSU's head coach versus his former school ..... Darien Gay moved into 10th place on Ferris' all-time steals list in the game ...... The win was only FSU's fifth victory in its last 15 season openers ....... The regular-season triumph was only Ferris' 18th against Calvin in more than 80 series' meetings .... An announced crowed of 552 fans were on hand for the season opener ..... The Bulldogs got all 13 players into the game and all of them registered at least one statistic on the night with nine scoring .... Calvin recorded 13 offensive boards with FSU grabbing 10 overall.